What To Expect From Your First Criminal Court Hearing in Texas
Many people accused of a crime have never been to court. It is important to know how to handle yourself when you first go to court.
Arrive Early and Expect to Stay LateIt is best to arrive for court 15 minutes early. Many people who have never been to court do not know where to park, where the courtroom is located or the length of trip to courthouse. If you are late for your hearing, you can be arrested. This is a violation of most bond conditions and it is vital- repeat vital- to be on time. Additionally, most big cities have hundreds of accused defendants coming to court on a given day, so expect to stay late. Feel free to bring an appropriate book or magazine (no Playboy!), but leave the ipod and headphones at home.
Dress Like You're Going to Church or WorkIt is important that you dress appropriately for court. While you will probably not speak to the judge on your first visit, you need to "dress to impress". No shorts, revealing clothing or shirts that advertise alcohol or promote drug use. Many, many times I have seen a prosecutor eyeball an accused Defendant and adjust the plea bargain based on the individual's appearance. I have seen a judge reject a DWI plea bargain that was beneficial because the client wore a t-shirt promoting binge drinking to court.
Come PreparedYou should have an attorney when you go to court. You and your attorney should have reached an agreement, signed a contract and you should have paid your attorney the agreed initial amount. Merely speaking to an attorney will not create an attorney-client relationship. Additionally, if there are documents that you need to show your attorney (not the prosecutor), you should bring them.
Be PatientFor most people accused of a crime, time is on your side. In other words, it is generally beneficial NOT to resolve your case during the first court hearing. You need to be patient with the court system; the "wheels of justice" can turn at a glacial pace. Remain steadfast in your defense, be extra careful to avoid new trouble(s) during the pendency of your current case.